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Angels in Army Drab: The Medical Specialists Corps and COL Emma Vogel

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Journal Article - Open Access

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National Museum of Health and Medicine, USAMRMC Silver Spring United States

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Angels in Army Drab is the name that COL Emma Vogel 1889-1981 affectionately gave to the group of men and women in the Medical Specialist Corps for their tireless work of rehabilitative, long-term care for service members and their family. The role of rehabilitative care in the military is a relatively young concept. At the turn of World War I, most rehabilitation was performed just for mental health patients. Evenorthopedic surgery was considered a new and potentially unreliable specialty. Orthopedic surgeons were early adopters of rehabilitative therapies to provide postsurgery treatment and allow individuals to return to the workforce.2 World War I provided an unprecedented number of orthopedic injuries and a need to provide additional care for soldiers.2,3 In 1917, Surgeon General William Gorgas authorized the use of reconstruction aides RAs to enhance postsurgical care.4 RAs or physiotherapists were initially civilians who volunteered to provide massage, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, or physiotherapy to soldiers who suffered from battlefield injuries during World War I.5 Fig. 1 The first wave of RAs were sent to Europe in June 1918 as civilian contractors. RAs were paid a minimal salary, purchased their own uniformsthrough the Red Cross, and were not protected under war-time insurance or benefits. During this time, Emma Vogel began her path to the Chief of the Specialist Corps.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research

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